Royal Ordnance Factories.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 5th August 1942.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Cyril Lloyd Mr Cyril Lloyd , Dudley

My right hon. Friend's review of the position of the ordnance factories, and of this Report of the Select Committee, does, I think, make an opportunity for consideration of the work of the Select Committee itself. I have a feeling that the Select Committee itself is to some extent under judgment to-day, because the question arises whether the work they are doing is first of all useful to this House—they are the servants of this House—secondly, whether it is effective, and thirdly, whether it has, in the way in which it is presented to this House, a useful effect on the public at large. I feel that the methods of the work of the Select Committee are open to criticism in all these respects. We have an old-established method of examination of public accounts by the Public Accounts Committee, which proceeds with a very exact, dignified procedure but admittedly long after the events have taken place. At the other end of the scale we have Treasury control of expenditure. The House has seen fit to appoint the Committee with very wide terms of reference indeed, in such a form that it seems to me it is likely for a time to form a constitutional element of our Government. It goes on from Session to Session in a way which seems to suggest that it is to be overlasting. I am not sure how many Reports it has presented—this is the eleventh of this Parliamentary Session—but it has presented an enormous number of Reports, which are all used on the same endeavour, to serve this House.

I do not wish for a moment to be thought to be criticising the members of the Committee. It would ill become me to do so, but I think the House may sometimes stand back and look at this rather monstrous child they have brought into being, sometimes with alarm, sometimes almost with consternation. For one thing, it occupies the time of Members of this House to an extent that it practically raises the question of whether this House is the executive management of industry itself. All industry is working on behalf of the Government; a very large proportion of it is directly under the Ministry of Supply. If that is the true lay-out of industry to-day, the Ministry of Supply are expected to manage industry under a constant fire of criticism from a very large and influential Committee of Members of this House. I venture to think that that is not the way to get an enthusiastic and confident spirit into those responsible for running the great factories engaged on war work. The paralysing effect of the intrusion of criticism from this House is very well known and recognised outside, and everyone knows that the moment a shaft of criticism is directed towards any particular factory, whether it be private or Royal Ordnance factory, a tremendous commotion is created, which probably reacts very seriously on production itself.